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Is the GCC preparing to welcome its new member?
While the six Gulf countries agreed to let Yemen join them by 2015, are they taking adequate steps for a smooth admission?
May 20, 2009 2:55 by Aarti Nagraj
Saudi Arabia is supporting Yemen’s bid to join the GCC, the Al Hayat newspaper reported on Wednesday, quoting an interview with Abdel Karim Al Arhabi, Yemen’s deputy prime minister. Yemen seeks to join the six-member council by 2015, the report added.
This is good news for Yemen, which has been trying to become part of the GCC for many years now. Resistance to the inclusion of Yemen into the council comes mainly from Kuwait and Saudi.
“In Kuwait, we believe that if we open the GCC to other countries, we will end up with 22 members joining,” said Sheikh Mohammad Sabah Al Salem Al Sabah, Kuwait’s deputy prime minister and foreign minister, to explain his country’s reluctance to let Yemen join the group.
Saudi’s logic has been simple: “We refuse to have Yemen join the Gulf Cooperation Council” Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz said in 2004, because Yemen “is not a Gulf state.”
Analysts also point out concerns about the lack of infrastructure, the religious extremism and a volatile business environment in Yemen as being obstacles to its inclusion into the GCC.
But Yemen claims that it deserves to be part of the union: “Yemen is the geographic, strategic, humane and security background of the GCC states,” the country’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh told the GCC Secretary-General Abdul Rahman Al Attiyah in February last year.
During a debate ‘Inclusion of Yemen to the GCC,’ organized by the Gulf Research Center in Dubai in 2006, experts pointed out that Yemen-GCC relations are cordial, and there are no political, cultural or social obstacles impeding Yemen’s entry into the bloc. The debate also noted that including Yemen as part of the GCC was crucial for establishing a firm base for Gulf security.
At the Abu Dhabi summit in December 2005, a strategic resolution was passed to start the process of Yemen’s integration to the GCC by 2015. And the process has slowly started; in March this year, the country was admitted as a member of the Federation of GCC Chambers of Commerce. During the GCC Summit held in Muscat in December 2008, Yemen was also admitted to four new GCC bodies in the areas of standardization and metrology, industrial development and consultancy, accounting and auditing, and radio and television.
Are these steps adequate for Yemen’s transition? Or will it need more support from Gulf States?